MISSING IN KANSAS: Unidentified bodies

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More than 600,000 people go missing in the United States every year. While many are found alive and well, there are the few cases that go unsolved.

In Kansas, there are 25 people’s remains that are unidentified, as listed in the Department of Justice’s NamUs database. The victims include 18 men, 5 women and 2 toddlers. They are anywhere from 12 months to 91 years old. Some of the cases are decades old.


When police departments try to identify a body, many people can help out, including forensic anthropologist Peer Moore-Jansen.

“They will contact me and they will request my assistance. Sometimes it's a sheriff's office somewhere,” he said. “Sometimes it's a police department, sometimes it's a prosecutor. I think once in my life, I’ve worked for a defense attorney.”

His goal is to create a general skeletal profile. Though Moore-Jansen may not be able to find the exact cause of death, he can find the manner of death and more details about a person; this can be especially helpful on cold cases.

“I can look at gunshot wounds. I can look at cut marks I can look at saw marks. I could look at fractures,” he continued. “This I have expertise, and, so I can give opinions on or insights or documentation speaking to a manner of death? Did they die from a homicide? Did they die from a suicide? Did they die from an accident?”



In addition to creating a profile of the person, he may help reconstruct the skeleton, which can take months. He was hired to assist with the July 2003 murder investigation at Club Mexico, then located at 2600 S. Oliver in Wichita. Three people were murdered, but it was a complicated case.

According to Kansas Supreme Court documents, the men were shot to death and their bodies were dismembered, stored in a freezer and taken from Wichita to a field in Cowley County; it was there where the bodies were put in large barrels, doused with gas and burned. The club owner, Arturo Garcia, was convicted and sentenced to more than 100 years for the murders.

“It literally took me five months to identify the three people who are involved in this case,” Moore-Jansen said. “But, it took me no more than 30 seconds to identify there were a minimum of three people involved.”

The victims were later identified as Clint Jones, 30, Oscar Ramirez, 27, and Nicolas Ramirez, 22.

Moore-Jansen said with a majority of cases, though, it may take a week or two to create a profile.

Moore-Jansen has spent 30 years out of his 36-year career at Wichita State University, where he is a professor of anthropology. He helps teach students by taking them into the field and taking them on-sight to “Skeleton Acres,” a property donated to the university, where students get hands-on experience with mock crime scenes.

Years ago, Moore-Jansen and a former professor of his from Tennessee helped develop a forensic databank for calculating standards for North American populations.

He said he never walked into this career wanting to be a hero. He’s glad to be of help when he can.

“I do hear indirectly about families who find closure,” he said, “and that does make it so much more – not worthwhile – so much more…you feel comforted. There's a purpose.”

Victim’s families have found a purpose too. Some have donated their loved one’s body to Wichita State to help students get hands-on experience. It’s that experience, Moore-Jansen said, which defines an industry where only dozens of people are able to decipher the most complicated cases.

“Sometimes they feel inclined to donate the skeleton, which means we as researchers, me as a teacher, you know, we can expand knowledge about all this,” Moore-Jansen said. “I find that very valuable. I very much appreciate all the people I have worked with, worked for. And I think it benefits us tremendously as a society.”

You can read more about Dr. Peer Moore-Jansen’s work at Wichita State University by clicking here.

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